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Victoria Itinerary

I'm looking for itinerary suggestions May7-12, have a rental car, and will rent bikes weather permitting.

Would prefer more obscure "hole in the wall" places to eat/things to see, Any local gems?.

I'm also a huge Karaoke fan (LOL) so planning on hitting Sopranos one night (any other suggestions and how is their food?)

I'm a huge seafood fan especially when its NOT battered and deep fried, love spicy/exotic foods, Sushi, Thai, good bakeries, good burgers, and good brew pubs!

 
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  1. I already have 2 reservations;

    1 - Buchart (I have tickets/lunch reserved for Saturday to avoid the Sunday mothers day crowds)
    2 - Tea (i have reservations at White Heather for lunch Friday)

    Any other suggestions or must see's ?

    1. Sounds like you would like Red Fish Blue Fish which is a shipping container on the inner harbour. Certainly a hole in the wall type of place and great seafood.

      1. Another one we always enjoy is John's Place on Pandora for breakfast.. They might be good for later but I've only been for breakfast. We always like Tapas as well.

        1. Here I am again -- just remembered the Noodle Box, two locations on Fisgard or Douglas. We like hole in the wall and they always please.

          9 Replies
          1. re: mickie44

            Thanks - All are now on my itinerary! Does Red Fish Blue Fish have tables and do I need to reserve at any?

            1. re: MartinT

              Red Fish, Blue Fish is outdoors. No tables, just a long bench (uncovered) with stools. It is great, but try to get there before noon or after 2 pm to avoid painfully long lines. However, I notice in your post that you do not like seafood that is battered or fried...some of the seafood at Red Fish, Blue Fish is fried in a light tempura batter.

              Other favourites...

              Daidoco...very fresh Japanese food, and very good sashimi indeed (weekday lunch spot).

              Zambri's--Tues-Fri for lunch, Tues-Sat for dinner. Modern, real Italian food using fresh local ingredients. Tucked away in a strip mall at Yates and Vancouver/Quadra.

              Hernandez--weekday...in an office building courtyard. Mayan cuisine with wonderful in-house made corn tortillas.

              Pink Bicycle--good burger joint with an array of options for carnivores and vegetarians alike.

              Choux Choux Charcuterie...wonderful French deli on Fort St that also serves lunch. More of a take-out place, but they do have two tables.

              Brasserie L'Ecole....not exactly a hole in the wall, but definitely out of the way (French restaurant tucked away in Chinatown, on Government St (near Harold). Reservations essential. Dinner only, Tues-Sat.

              Soloman's... a new favourite for cocktails and small plates. On Herald St. near Government.

              Apologies to the above posters, but I would NOT recommend John's Place or Noodle Box. Sorry.

              1. re: anewton

                Excellent! Any breakfast recommendations or good bakeries?

                1. re: MartinT

                  My local rellies really like Shine Cafe on Fort -- a little off the beaten path but that helps avoid the egregious lines at John's Place and Blue Fox, neither of which I loved. You may hear recs for Floyd's Diner but unless things have changed, avoid. Bad service and dirty.

                  -----
                  Shine Cafe
                  1548 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8S5J2, CA

                  1. re: grayelf

                    My Hotel is on Johnston and Broad about 2kms away - so not too distant at all!

                    I appreciate not waiting in line too much, such a waste when only visiting for 5 days...

                    I just checked online - Shine looks menu looks yummy!

                    1. re: MartinT

                      A few more thoughts:

                      RE: breakfast joints, I frequently recommend Shine, but be forewarned that it too has long lineups on weekends.

                      I like Mo:Le for breakfast. Long lineups, but you can wait in Habit, which is one of Victoria's best coffee joints.

                      My wife took me to task for naysaying Noodle Box. I have to admit, I eat there on occasion, and it is really not bad, but be aware that it is essentially pan-Asian fast food, and as such is not the place for culinary epiphanies.

                      A newer restaurant that I like (primarily a lunch place, but open for early dinners, too) is Orale on Johnson at Vancouver. They serve very fresh, authentic Mexican food. The portions are 'tapas' sized, so you have to order a few to constitute a dinner. But it is really very tasty.

                      Pig on View St. has tasty BBQ sandwiches and sides (i.e. pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked chicken). More of a place for quick lunches and take-out.

                      You mention that you like brewpubs. I am not a big fan of the food at any of Victoria's brewpubs, but if I had to recommend one, it would be Spinnaker's in Vic West. Their beer is good, and I think their basic pub grub, i.e. burgers, wings, salads, fries...is solid. They try to do the gastropub thing, and unfortunately I think that they do not succeed with their attempts at fine dining.

                      You also mention exotic foods. Victoria is, and has never been, a hotbed for exotic cuisine. There is supposed to be a good new Turkish restaurant in Oak Bay called Nar, I believe.

                      There is a takeout curry place in Market Square called (I believe) Tibetan Kitchen. I have heard some positive reviews.

                      I also have to throw in another pitch for Pizzeria Primastrada in the Cook St Village. Other out-of-towners have praised this place on this board. They serve authentic Neapolitan pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven. Their sides and salads are fresh and creative. I really like their white beans cooked in the wood oven with garlic and a parmesan crust on top.

                      There are many other good places, but I have to eat my dinner now!

                      Please give us a report about your visit here.

                      1. re: anewton

                        To be honest, I've never understood the love affair with Noodle Box. Admittedly, I am not really a fan of pan-Asian fast food... but despite that, I've tried it several times and every time has been over-sauced, and over-salted.

                        Absolutely must second Daidoco as a lunch spot. Fresh and creative!

                        1. re: anewton

                          Thanks for the headsup on the weekend lineups at Shine. I guess the cat is well out of the bag :-) but I'd still rather wait at Shine than the other two places!

                          Also thanks for the 411 on Orale which sounds most intriguing. I'll be in Victoria for a couple of days in early June on business and have started compiling a short list... probably only dinner alas but hope springs eternal.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            For the OP, you might want to check out this thread from February 2009 for some bakery ideas http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598861

            2. Orale is really great....careful you don't drive/ride right past it, it's slightly below ground level (the food is great - I'd love to see them get a restaurant makeover too - those chairs, ugh!) And Hernandez 2nd location is great too - Bay St @ Shakespeare (old Baja Grill) - it was a partial menu when I was there a few weeks ago, but I think they're full-on now.
              Re: Sopranos food - it's a bar - so nosh somewhere else if you're looking for interesting fair and just get drinks while you're there singing ;-)
              Sushi - I like Ebizo at 604 Broughton and Shizen on Gov't (near the Chinatown gates and across from the Brasserie).
              Another breakfast spot - Willie's at the bottom of Johnson (probably 3 blks from your hotel). I was there on Sunday and it was great. I do 2nd (3rd?) the recommendation for Shine - if you can get there early enough to get a table.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cassie

                Appreciate the Sopprano's comment Cassie, we arrive late Thurs and thought we would eat there. Will instead try to find something else that is fast and still open instead... or uggggh... deal with plane fare!!! hmmmm - Maybe I'll even post the link to my performance... i hear they records and uploads to youtue on Thursdays (if i can arrive on time - I dont land until after 9pm)

                1. re: MartinT

                  I should clarify the Soprano's comment - it's a car, but they serve food - probably typical pub food - burgers, chicken strips, that sort of thing. It's not a foodie destination - but if it's between plane food and them - you'll probably be better off eating at Soprano's. Urbanspoon has their menu posted. Maybe go with Solomon's to nosh beforehand then - it's only about 3-4 blks from Soprano's (they're closed Mondays) - but open until midnight Tue-Sun.
                  On the wine front - if you venture into James Bay - Spinnakers Wine store has a tasting area / light bites beside it called "Sips" - you can try quite a few wines (or order sets of them) - along with some local meats/cheeses, soups & sandwiches - I believe they're open 7 days 10am-10pm. 425 Simcoe in James Bay Sq. A nice stop on your bikes possibly.

              2. We just came back from a delightful experience in Victoria, attended a friends wedding the past Saturday.

                For lunch on the day we arrived we stopped at Blue Fox. I ordered a Mexi Omelette and my wife the Salmon Benedict. Both were delicious and were very filling. Unfortunately, we both ended up with stomach problems later that afternoon.. must have been something in the lunch. :(

                For dinner the wedding reception and ceremony was at Cafe Brio. Dinner was awesome, and the wine pairings made by the wedding party was excellent (Joie - a Noble Blend white, not can't remember what the red was).

                On Sunday we went around by foot, first off we went to Cafe Fantastico in Dockside Green where we enjoyed an Americano Espresso and a Chai Tea Latte. Then we wandered off around Fisherman's Wharf, looked at Barb's fish and chips (Don't think they're related to Barb's in Half Moon Bay?). We weren't hungry yet, so we walked back and had lunch at Red Fish Blue Fish. We weren't sure what to order, and a nice lady behind us in line recommended the Tacones. We ordered the salmon and tuna tacones and my wife wanted an extra sloppy joe's spicy fish sandwich. The tuna tacones were delicious, salmon less so, but still very good.

                We went back at 6:30 for dinner and ordered a few more tacones.. RFBF is definately worth going...

                The plan was to go to Zambri's but turns out they were closed on Sunday. The bakery beside Cafe Fantastico was closed as well. :( We'll have to try Willy's bakery and Shine next time..

                1 Reply
                1. re: taiphun

                  Thanks taiphun - its so important to know what to order! I am not a picky eater at all, and most times when i go to a new establishment I will ask the wait staff what they are known for or what their biggest sellers are... i cant ever recall being steered incorrectly.

                2. Any suggestions on wine bars or "better" wineries to stop at for an afternoon taste test. I hit some of Niagara area and Osoyoos area wineries earlier this year and to date have not been impressed with our Canadian wines... i like my dry reds... any good french and most blends with some character

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MartinT

                    Hi Martin:

                    Most Vancouver Island wineries are not even close to Victoria. There are several out on the Saanich Peninsula, and I guess they are accessible if you are up for a 20-30 km bike ride (one way).

                    However, I would not go out of my way. I think there are a few decent wines being made on Vancouver Island. Alderlea in particular stands out with their pinot noir and pinot gris, but it ain't cheap. Averill Creek makes a few good wines (decent pinot noir and a pretty good pinot gris). Both these wineries are in the Duncan/Cowichan Valley area, about an hour's drive north of Victoria.

                    Note that Bordeaux and Rhone varietals do not do well at all on Vancouver Island. You mentioned that you like French wines...do not expect to find Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah grown on Vancouver Island. A few wineries have tried their hand at Merlot, but I am not sure why.

                    Stage Wine Bar is an excellent choice for small plates and BC wines, including a few local wines. It is in Fernwood, on Gladstone Ave. Great little place.

                    Sips wine bar in James Bay opened recently. I have not been and cannot comment.

                    1. re: anewton

                      Hmm i certainly could drive to the wineries but will stick to the bars - prefer them anyhow... i would rather spend my time sightseeing closer to town than driving all the time. Most bars "taste flights" provide a far superior selection (and experience) than i would find in most wineries anyhow! Thanks anewton!

                  2. Thanks! You are all just TOO awesome!!!

                    One final question... here is the list i have compiled based on your input (in no particular order). I have added address to program into my GPS and days hours they are open plus links to other reviews to help me choose menu items.

                    Thus my question... are there any signature dishes I MUST TRY at each of the mentioned establishments? (ie// the Tuna Tacones at RFBF)

                    Red Fish, Blue Fish = 1006 Wharf Street
                    http://www.redfish-bluefish.com/
                    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/317/13490...
                    Must try Tuna Tacones, BBQ Fanny Bay Oyster Sandwich, Halibut & Chips
                    Daily 11:30-7pm

                    Hernandez = 750 Yates St or 736 View St? www.hernandezrestaurant.com
                    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/317/13448...
                    Mexican - Tue-Sat

                    BBQ Pig Joint = 749 View St.
                    http://pigbbqjoint.com/
                    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/317/14116...
                    BBQ - Tue-Sat

                    Dutch Bakery = 718 Fort St
                    http://www.goforlunch.com/dutchbakery/
                    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/317/13100...
                    Bakery Tue-Sat

                    Brasserie "l'ecole" = 1715 Government St
                    http://www.lecole.ca/home.htm
                    French Tue-Sat

                    Shine = 1548 Fort St
                    250-595-2133
                    http://www.shinecafe.com/bfast.html
                    Breakfast - Days/Hrs ?

                    Tapas = 620 Trounce Alley
                    http://www.tapabar.ca/public/002_TheT...
                    Tapas Daily

                    Daidoco = 633 Courtney St.
                    http://www.vanmag.com/restaurant/daidoco
                    Deli/Japanese Mon-Fri

                    Zambri = 110-911 Yates St
                    Italian Tues-Sat

                    Pink Bicycle = 1008 Blanshard St
                    http://www.pinkbicycleburger.com/
                    Gourmet Burgers - Mon-Sat

                    Choux Choux Charcuterie = 830 Fort St
                    http://chouxchoux.ca/news.php#Lunch
                    Deli Tues-Sat

                    Soloman's = 542 Herald St
                    http://solomons.ca/Solomons_Victoria_...
                    Cocktails/plates Tue-Sun

                    Mo:Le = 554 Pandora Avenue
                    http://www.molerestaurant.ca/
                    Health Breakfast/Lunch - Daily 8-3

                    Orale = 1002 Johnston St
                    http://www.orale.ca/
                    Mexican Daily 7pm Wknd 9pm

                    Pizzeria Primastrada = 105-230 Cook Street
                    http://www.pizzeriaprimastrada.com/
                    Italian Daily

                    Shizen = 1706 Government St.
                    http://www.shizensushi.ca/
                    Sushi

                    Willies = 537 Johnson Street,
                    http://www.williesbakery.com
                    Bakery/Cafe

                    Stage Wine Bar = 1307 Gladstone Ave
                    http://www.stagewinebar.com/
                    Wine bar/plates

                    ?John's Place (Breakfast/Burgers) = 723 Pandora Ave
                    http://johnsplace.ca/
                    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/317/14157...
                    Breakfast Daily - has some questionable reviews

                    ?Ebizo = 604 Broughton
                    Sushi - I have already picked Shizen for this tour!

                    ?Noodle Box
                    I am "iffy" on fast food asian... has some questionable reviews

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: MartinT

                      Links to almost all establishments

                      Now anyone know if its possible to see all the following in a map view?

                      -----
                      Choux Choux Charcuterie
                      830 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8R, CA

                      Brasserie "l'ecole"
                      1715 Government St, Victoria, BC V8W1Z4, CA

                      Daidoco Deli
                      633 Courtney St, Victoria, BC V8W1B9, CA

                      Red Fish Blue Fish
                      1006 Wharf St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                      Zambri's
                      911 Yates St, Victoria, BC V8V4X3, CA

                      Pizzeria Prima Strada
                      230 Cook St, Victoria, BC V8V3X3, CA

                      Shine Cafe
                      1548 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8S5J2, CA

                      Hernandez
                      750 Yates St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                      BBQ Pig Joint
                      749 View St, Victoria, BC V8W1J9, CA

                      Dutch Bakery & Coffee Shop Ltd
                      730 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                      The Tapa Bar
                      620 Trounce Alley, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                      Pink Bicycle Gourmet Burger Joint
                      1008 Blanshard St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                      Solomon's
                      542 Herald St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                      Mo:Le
                      554 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                      Orale
                      1002 Johnson St, Victoria, BC V8V3N7, CA

                      Shizen Japanese Restaurant
                      1706 Government St, Victoria, BC V8W1Z5, CA

                      Willie's Bakery & Cafe
                      537 Johnson St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

                      Stage Wine Bar Ltd
                      1307 Gladstone Ave, Victoria, BC V8R1R9, CA

                      John's Place Restaurant
                      723 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8W1N9, CA

                      1. re: MartinT

                        MartinT - I just did a quick list - hopefully you can see it (and it comes in map-form - it's my 1st list).
                        Check out under Restaurants & Bars / Lists / Recently Added....

                        1. re: cassie

                          OMG cassie!!! You are just too amazing, TYTYTY!!!!

                          i was not aware CH could even do this...

                          Now can I enlarge map and even possibly print it?
                          hmmmm - appears not available yet = http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/566153

                          I can always do a ctrl-alt-prt scn and paste it into word to print. but it looks "digitized"

                          I also use Google Maps on my phone with GPS, would be nice to be able to pull up live to see what im close to at the moment!

                          1. re: MartinT

                            Glad it worked (somewhat), and yes, would be better to print-out or send to oneself - because it is pretty small.
                            Two rec's on dishes:
                            Brasserie - frites - if you don't order steak frties, then get an appy of them - they are 'fancied up' with truffle oil & parmesan, served with garlic aioli
                            Pizza Primastrada (everything...but I love the Rucola pizza topped with fresh arugula & sliced prosciutto)

                            1. re: cassie

                              Thanks again Cassie - it was so cool to see that our hotel is right in the middle of all the recommendations!

                              Will definitely try the Steak Frites (I'm a huge fan) and Rucola!

                    2. i just got back from victoria last night - we went to mole for sunday breakfast, if you can get there by 9am then you should be able to get in, we were 6 people and go there just in time. had dinner at stage sunday night, it was very quiet (no show at the theatre) but we had a nice meal with great wine - i would go back for sure!!

                      the next night we had dinner at pagliacci's - that place has been around forever, i lived in victoria about 15 yrs ago and we went there a lot, i don't think they've changed a thing, including the prices (the menu is still the same). it was still busy and still good food.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: pants

                        Martin:

                        Regarding your request for 'must-try' or signature dishes at the aforementioned restaurants, I can think of a few.

                        Red Fish, Blue Fish: Yes, the tuna tacones are very good. But the tuna sandwich is also excellent. I also like the scallop burger, which comes with (I believe) tempura battered pickles.

                        Hernandez: The Bay street location has an amazing beef burrito made with local beef. But the Huarache is the must-try item here. (I like the Huarache con Puerco). The house-made tortillas are to die for.

                        Zambri's: Sometimes they have a pasta served with duck ragu; that is not one to miss.

                        Brasserie L'Ecole: As mentioned, they have excellent steak frites. I prefer the 10 oz NY Strip (USDA Prime) to the sirloins, but it is, of course, more expensive. They also have a endive salad that is not to be missed.

                        Pink Bicycle: I like their basic cheeseburger. I happen to like their onion rings a lot, but one of my coworkers found them greasy (what does one expect from onion rings?) Make sure to order some of the great dipping sauces for your fries.

                        Mo:Le: My favourite items are both on the breakfast menu. The Mo:Le eggs benedict and the 'Mo's Biscuit' are both extremely tasty.

                        Pizzeria Primastrada: Any of their pizzas are delicious. They often have specials. I like the pizza with their housemade sausage (I believe the pizza is called salsiccia). I also like the salad with the mint, red onion, oranges, and fennel. And I have probably mentioned that I like the white beans baked with garlic and a parmiggiano crust in their wood-fired oven.

                        Choux Choux: Their lunch specials change all of the time, but are always good. One day they may serve a croque monsieur with a housemade soup; the next they may have slow-roasted pork shoulder with polenta and pimentos. Their house-made charcuterie is excellent. Also, if you hit some nice weather and wanted to go for a picnic in the park (Beacon Hill is conveniently located), buy one of their amazing housemade pates or terrines, some of the excellent cheeses they stock, and a baguette from Fol Epi (Choux Choux sells Fol Epi bread), and you're set.

                        Shine: really good omelettes.

                        Soloman's: I liked their yam fries with excellent dipping sauce (peanut-based, I would guess) for $5. We enjoyed some tasty mussels there, too. And their cocktail list is very fine: they are particularly crazy about pre-prohibition cocktails like sazeracs and old-fashioneds.

                        Tapa Bar: Not my favourite place, but their prawns are very good (they serve them a few different ways). Pleasant ambience, too.

                        A few other places to check out.

                        Chocolat: a don't-miss place for excellent truffles, house-made chocolates, and house-made chocolate bars.

                        fol epi/Cafe Fantastico: just across the Johnson St Bridge (the blue bridge) in the new dockside green development. Fol Epi makes out of this world bread and pastry (they mill all of their own flour on site). So you can buy a delicious (albeit expensive) piece of apple struedel and stroll over to Fantastico (they share a contiguous space) to order a specialty coffee of your choice.

                        Look forward to your report. Hope the weather improves! (it has been cool, cloudy and intermittently raining for the past 3 days).

                        1. re: anewton

                          As a deep-fried food fiend, I have to reinforce one thing anewton mentioned: the pickles at Red Fish Blue Fish. Get 'em no matter what else you order. You can get fries anywhere :-).

                          1. re: grayelf

                            Thanks anewton amazing list - greatly appreciated !!! And i agree with both you and grayelf that deep fried has its place... we have a local pub (Jamiesons) that does great deep fried pickles - highly recommended!

                            1. re: grayelf

                              Oh yah, I remember you mentioned the pickles at RFBF in another thread as well. I have to get around to ordering that sometime :) But I always get tuna tacones and i'm just so stuffed afterwards!
                              As for the fries, the plain ones are pretty crispy and yummy, but a friend ordered the curry ones last time and I didn't like them too much.

                            2. re: anewton

                              I actually enjoy the humidity anewton! Its a nice change from the desert like dryness out here.

                              We have peaks and valleys for temperatures, where Vic weather appears to be more moderated so feels warmer.

                              our sunshine is nice... ill try to bring some with me!

                            3. re: pants

                              I am surprised you are the first person to mention Pagliacci's. I have been eating there for almost 20 years. I try to get to Victoria a couple times a year and always leave one night for Pagliacci's. Great food, fun menu - and you are absolutly right, nothing has changed.

                              For fun, we also try to hit the Bengal Room at the Empress for Curry. Little pricy, but you get to sit in the comfy chairs and dream about times gone by.

                            4. This is great info - Thanks for asking the question. I will be traveling to VI and Sooke the first week of June. So the thread has been so helpful.

                              Question: Can you eat at Buchart and is the food really good there? Or could someone suggest something nearby?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: neblanc

                                MartinT may be better able to reply about the food at Butchart. They have quite a selection - from casual counter service (sandwiches, machine lattes, etc), to cafeteria (salads, soups) to a full sit-down resto with tea service & lunches (dinners start Jun 15, sorry). There is a kiosk part-way through (at the sunken gardens) with drinks/cookies/chips. I wouldn't consider it a culinary destination (I've only done counter service, tho). Brentwood Bay Lodge is nearby - with a pub side and a finer dining side - beautiful setting, food is quite nice.
                                www.brentwoodbaylodge.com

                                1. re: cassie

                                  neblanc - Having lunch at Buchart tomorrow (Sat May9) will give an update sometime after an afternoon bike ride

                                2. re: neblanc

                                  If you're going to Sooke, you would be remiss if you did not go to Sooke Harbour House. It is one of the top restaurants in North America and deserves every scrap of praise it gets. Excellent wine list, they grow their own herbs and edible flowers, and use local ingredients including locally-harvested (like down on the beach in front of the resto) seaweed.

                                  Near Butchart is the Brentwood Bay Lodge and apparently the food is good there but I have never been. Honestly though, if you have a car (and you must if you're going to Sooke), nothing is more than 1/2 an hour away in Victoria. You could go to the Thai restaurant on Beacon Ave in Sidney (the name of which I cannot recall now), which is very good. Or come back into town and enjoy Brasserie L'Ecole, Zambri's, or Cafe Brio...

                                  +1 for the Bengal Room. I enjoy drinking a gin & tonic while being fanned by the old-fashioned ceiling fans and eating curry in front of the roaring fire. Colonialism at its finest :)

                                3. Thanks to all who posted, this trip was amazing… one of the best ever. A true culinary experience due to each one of you! I am very adventurous when it comes to food, but my travelling companion much less so, yet every stop provided an opportunity for both the adventurous and the not-so. Have to also mention that the trip was memorable for so many other reasons…

                                  • Best Western Carleton Plaza was way under $100/night, and staff was incredible! Had an enormous suite w/large flat screen TV, an entire kitchen and an amazing bed with a cloud like down comforter! Even had complimentary valet, complimentary mountain bike rentals and complimentary bottles of water stocked in the fridge!
                                  • Avis upgraded my compact car to an SUV at no charge.
                                  • Soprano’s Karaoke pub was a riot, didn’t eat here, but drinks were inexpensive. Place was packed and service was slow, but the raw talent of the singers was amazing! Went back a few days later and the service was waaay better, but this time the talent not so great - except for me ;-) Staff remembered me and we still had great time.

                                  FOOD
                                  White Heather tea room - For afternoon tea http://www.whiteheather-tearoom.com/i... had reservations, were seated immediately and had amazing service. Tried the “Big Muckle” a 3 tiered serving of savory and sweet baked goods which all melted in your mouth. HIGHLY recommend!!! All items tasted fresh baked within minutes of being brought to our table. Cost 1/3 of the cost of tea at the Empress and we could only eat about 2/3 so remainder went back to room.

                                  Red Fish Blue Fish - I wanted EVERYTHING on the menu. Lineup was short, and we shared 2 pc halibut and I had 1 Tuna Tacone and Fanny Bay Oyster sandwich. (way too much food) Fish and chips were best we’ve ever had, Tuna Tacone was excellent, and Oyster burger was just OK, I thought could have used more “crunch” (my tempura dill pickle was uncoated and soft, so the sandwich was a soggy experience, although we did like the other food so much we planned to go back, just ran out of time so never did!

                                  Willies - Breakfast was amazing, loved the garden ambiance. We had the Salmon Bennie (again, one of the best I’ve had) and the 2 of everything (good and plain). I had no change for meter and spent 5mins in Willies line before obtaining, then raced outside to feed meter only to watch ticket being placed on our vehicle! Guy was great and told me some good news - it’s only $20 if paid in 14 days. My even better news… I walked over to city hall to pay and told clerk my story, she reduced ticket to $3 (cost of meter) smiled and said enjoy my stay! Amazing!!!

                                  Beacon Drive In – Long line that moved quickly. We tried the soft blackberry swirl and chocolate dip cones. BEST soft ice cream I’ve EVER had! Sitting in the Sun on bikes in Beacon park… ahhhhh (even went back before we left, but I recommend no to the chocolate dip, it takes away from the ice cream experience)

                                  Buchart Gardens - Canceled our reservations for lunch, just could not eat any more after Willies and Beacon Drive In! Food looked very nice, and people we chatted with indicated food was “good” but no “culinary epiphanies” from anyone

                                  Hernandez – Downtown Yates location was closed so we found the new Bay St location open. Had the Organic Beef Burrito and for my pickier partner, Chicken on a homemade tostado (sans all beans and sauces). Again food was amazing! Tortillas almost melted in the mouth, and loved the “Spanish” hole in the wall “half finished/menyana” décor style, truly adds to the experience, almost like being there!

                                  Shine Café – Had 15-20 min wait, but well worth it. Had Salmon Benny and Regular Benny, both excellent (although IMO the hollandaise at Willies is superior. I left comment with manager that staff provided probably best service I have ever had! (no less than 4 wait staff tended to us) Again love the sunny ambiance. The place smiles all by itself - doesn’t it!

                                  Tapas Bar – Again great ambiance, very romantic, and excellent service. Tried the Bacon wrapped almond stuffed dates – OMG these are amazing. I will be experimenting with making these at home. Also had the mussels de chachacha (also incredible) and the margarita pizza. Once again great service!

                                  Brasserie l’ecole – Crème brule and truffles. Ran out of time to try all places on my list so had to at least sit at the bar for beverages and desert. Again the service was fantastic and the food… I’ll be coming back to Vic soon to eat here again!

                                  Pig – Pork sandwich, BBQ beans & cornbread. All were excellent, but the beans… these are some of the best I have EVER had, highly recommended.

                                  Mo:le – Had the warm banana bread INCREDIBLE and the Huevos Rancheros also amazing.

                                  We attempted/planned to hit many other places, but they were either closed or we ran out of time. Being on vacation, we ended up doing much bike riding and walking so fell asleep after our evening nightcaps and often slept in so breakfast and lunch were often combined!

                                  All of your recommendations not only were fantastic for the food, but they were also great for their ambiance and the service! Thank you all again for making this one of the most memorable vacations ever!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: MartinT

                                    i forgot about beacon drive-in!!! i used to go for ice cream all the time when i lived in the neighbourhood.

                                    1. re: MartinT

                                      Awesome report, MartinT! I am so glad you enjoyed your stay. I don't think I've heard such an across-the-board positive review (of anywhere) in a LONG time. I hope you'll be back soon.

                                    2. One final word of mention for cassie! I took your map with me everywhere I went, it allowed for more flexibility to plan our itinerary, we could just pick and choose from nearby restaurants whenever we felt hungry and wanted to eat. I even added hours and days open for all restaurants so we knew what was open or not. Thanks again!

                                      Now if only we can get CH to add this functionality...
                                      along with the capability to port to my Phone/PDA and/or to my GPS device :-)

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: MartinT

                                        Thanks for the report - I want to go back and stay a few days longer.

                                        On our trip, they offered to upgrade our Hyundai to a Trailblazer as well, but I declined not knowing how tall our hotel parkade was, and partially that the Hyundai was better on fuel.

                                        Only regret for me - leaving my credit card out at Utopia.. :(

                                        1. re: taiphun

                                          taiphun - if you know where credit card is, give them a call I'm certain they will mail it to you... they offered to do this for a watch we lost at butchart/hotel

                                          I was originally in a Chevy Cobalt, but ended up in a Dodge Journey with every option even multiple sunroofs which was a nice way to enjoy Victoria's sun (that i promised I would bring from Calgary) ;-)

                                        2. re: MartinT

                                          MartinT - one of the best reports I've read in a long time (and not just because you're praising my hometown). You hit WAY more places than I thought you'd be able to - you were definitely on a mission. Thanks for the tip on the White Heather, have not been there yet (Empress is $$ - but great for the experience - good to try once, at least ;-) I'll hit WH for sure in the future.
                                          Yours may be the only positive experience I've read about Victoria parking tickets - our commissionaires are notorious - thank goodness city hall is kind to tourists coming to pay.
                                          Glad the map worked (I'll try some more in the future). Thanks again for the report!

                                          1. re: cassie

                                            The ambiance at white heather is great from the inside, but lacking significantly from the outside as its just a strip mall along Oak Bay, so is missing the grand elegance of the Empress. Once your inside its more like going to grandmas (or whoever in your family is the best cook/storyteller) You are treated to the best china and silver and the hospitality is superior... our waitress joined us to tell stories until it got so busy couldn't anymore! Although i must admit, i think this was a trend with all wait staff at every restaurant, I tend to have this effect so they sit and chat whenever they can!

                                            I enjoyed some of the items at WH so much that i have contact info so can order whenever i want.... mmm the Cheese Krispie (w/Cream Cheese and fruit). Unfortunatley too many items can only be enjoyed fresh... the melt in your mouth breads and pastries all made with pure butter and cream and much effort... amazing I envy you!

                                            1. re: MartinT

                                              This is a great thread. I have relatives in Victoria, but they don't eat out....so my visits there are not about food.

                                        3. I have uploaded the map that I pieced together with most of the mentioned restaurants here:

                                          PDF Version = http://www.4shared.com/file/105027795...

                                          Powerpoint version = http://www.4shared.com/file/105015652...

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: MartinT

                                            Thanks for adding your map, Martin T, very handy -- I couldn't find the list cassie did but this is going in my glove compartment/purse. Found myself in Victoria today with some time and couldn't find Fol Epi in the phone book (argh), though I did have the huevos rancheros at Mo:Le.

                                            1. re: grayelf

                                              Hey grayelf - have so enjoyed the SF chowhound thread you worked so hard on - eagerly anticipating her Vic day-trip review - I've noted a bunch of the places you suggested for our day trip over next week (& future ones). My list is hard to find - it's called "Victoria hits" http://www.chow.com/lists/edit/1912
                                              Fol Epi is tricky - it's so new, it's not in the phone book yet. The road in front was just paved 2 wks ago - 398 Harbour View Rd - look for the sandwich board for it and Cafe Fantastico next time you're over. I had pizza there for lunch a few weeks back - individual ones, goat cheese and carmelized onions...sooooo fab.

                                              1. re: cassie

                                                Thanks, cassie -- I'm heading over next Monday and am in the process of a post that only lists places that are actually open that night. I'll be stuck in meetings all day so won't be able to hit Fol Epi this time (doh) but at least I know where it is now. I remembered it was just over the blue bridge but didn't have quite enough time to take a flyer today, more's the pity.

                                                Hope you have fun over here, and that the weather holds :-).

                                          2. Some good lists there got most of the spots,
                                            But I must argue that there is only one choice for bakeries, Fol Epi (possibly Wildfire, a past project of the fol epi owner). The others are not even in the same realm.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Castalerial

                                              Just make sure you call FE first: went yesterday and the baker had slept in so no bread at all :-(. The pain au chocolat was excellent, however.

                                              Also be aware that Harbour is blocked off so best to turn right on Tyee and approach from around backish.

                                            2. I am busy planning my next Chowhound adventure... fondly thinking of the spring trip to Victoria.

                                              Again I have to comment that this was one of the most amazing trips we have ever had due to all the assistance provided by fellow Chowhounders! I will never plan another trip without first consulting with the experts - you!

                                              My next trip this year is a few days in Miami, then a 7 day Western Caribean Cruise stopping at Cozumel, Cayman, and Jamaica, and finally 3 days in Key West. Having some difficulty determining where to post... for now its here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/616930

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: MartinT

                                                Hey Martin -- would love to read your new post but you seem to have accidentally linked to this one :-).

                                                1. re: grayelf

                                                  Ah yes... I see that I used incorrect link.

                                                  The new post is moving much more slowly... (good news is I still have time)
                                                  I'm guessing not as many CH'ers in the Caribbean :-( Too bad, as it was this post that made my spring vacation the MOST MEMORABLE EVER!

                                                  I'll be disappointed if I dont get at least 2 or 3 must hit spots per destination - there must be some amazing places/chefs in the Caribbean!

                                                  As i was uncertain where to post, i ended up posting in 2 CH forums
                                                  Caribbean = http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/642056
                                                  Florida = http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/642211